Considering descriptions of religious experiences, there is a call for abstracts for discussion in October 2019 and I’m looking for what tools may exist to analyze these experiences in a logical and consistant way, so such phenomenon can be organized and qualified. An example may be a specifically worded interview technique used to inquire about alleged miracles which is effective at ranking the experience regardless of the belief system - including atheism.


  • I'm struggling to imagine what you mean by 'analysis' here, other than reading and comparing. Could you add some more info? .
    – user20253
    Commented Sep 22, 2019 at 11:42
  • I'm not following the use of the word "constitutive" here myself.
    – virmaior
    Commented Sep 24, 2019 at 23:40
  • @virmaior - constitutive, “useful in organizing/constituting a system”
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 2:11
  • Fantastic question — particularly the intriguing call-for-abstracts. And Ive no idea how to even start on it. Thanks for bountying
    – Rushi
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 2:39
  • Biblical religious experiences are described as perception. To perceive means to see, know, understand, realize, become aware of or conscious of. ...when Gideon perceived that he was an angel of the LORD, Gideon said, Alas, O Lord GOD! for because I have seen an angel of the LORD face to face. And, Hereby perceive we the love of God... Perceptual acuity depends on the soundness of an individual's senses. Sagacious once meant acute in perception, with the senses. Sage meaning wise comes from the linguistic root to know, to taste, to perceive. To have good sense.
    – Bread
    Commented Sep 27, 2019 at 22:16

2 Answers 2


This answer only provides some references that might be worth exploring in searching for the desired tools relevant to SOPHERE's conference call for abstracts. (The deadline for submissions was last July so I assume this question is to help the OP better explore this field.)

In Mark Wynn's overview of the phenomenology of religion, the bibliography cites one of the authors noted in the call for abstracts, Matthew Ratcliffe. Wynn notes Ratcliffe's concept of "existential feelings":

There are various ways of understanding the significance of this sort of shift in the world's appearance. One potentially helpful category is Matthew Ratcliffe's notion of “existential feelings.” Ratcliffe introduces the category in these terms:

First of all, they [existential feelings] are not directed at specific objects or situations but are background orientations through which experience as a whole is structured. Second, they are bodily feelings. (2008, [Feelings of Being: Phenomenology, Psychiatry and the Sense of Reality, Oxford: Oxford University Press] p. 38, Ratcliffe's emphasis)

As an analogy (or perhaps more than an analogy) we could take the case of jet lag. When I am in a jet lagged state, the world in general can appear differently to me, and this is in part, no doubt, because of the associated change in my bodily condition. I may feel groggy (here is the bodily feeling to which Ratcliffe refers), and at the same time the world in general may take on a new appearance, so that it seems, for instance, out of focus. And we might speculate that, similarly, the convert has undergone a change in bodily condition, and that it is this change that accounts both for their feelings of elation, and also for the shift that they report in the world's appearance. It may be that, in some cases, whether by design or not, this bodily change is the product of a spiritual discipline. So here is another way in which feelings, including feelings of bodily condition, may be caught up into the phenomenology of the religious or spiritual life.

The other mentioned researchers are Anthony Steinbock, Jean-Luc Marion, Espen Dahl, Dan Zahavi, Stanley Cavell, and Evan Thompson.

The Society for the Phenomenology of Religious Experience (SOPHERE) has two conference proceedings available: Open Theology 2017 and Open Theology 2018. The articles appear to be open access and available for download.

One paper that might be useful is the last one from Open Theology 2018: James M. Nelson and Jonah Koetke, "Why We Need the Demonic: A Phenomenological Analysis of Negative Religious Experience". The reason this might be fruitful is one may complement any phenomenological tools provided in this paper with M. Scott Peck's psychotherapeutic study of evil as presented in his book People of the Lie.

Wynn, Mark, "Phenomenology of Religion", The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Winter 2016 Edition), Edward N. Zalta (ed.), URL = https://plato.stanford.edu/archives/win2016/entries/phenomenology-religion/.


If you really want to "analyze" this, it would be better if you used the scientific method. But you could also try this. Test how religion, though based in just thought, can affect people in incomprehensible ways to atheists. Ex. Ask a group of Muslims if they were stranded on an island with nothing but beer to drink, would they do so? Then collect the results. The same could be asked with Christians and pork, or things like that. Or, if you had the materials and volunteers to do so, you could create simulations of such situations. Then, test the results to see how much people are affected by religion in such ways. Or you could test how unreasonably dedicated some are by giving multiple scenarios like this. With your results, you could try to figure it out.

I hope this helps!

  • 1
    More than a little prejudicial, I think
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Sep 25, 2019 at 3:02
  • i follow a religion, im just saying the truth about how people are dedicated to their religion
    – Math Bob
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 2:21
  • i look at things from the viewpoints of many, not just myself
    – Math Bob
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 2:22
  • I don't think dividing along lines between atheist and theist can make an objective analysis tool. In fact it would be more scientific to not even consider the branch of faith in a phenomenological analysis as this inserts an unneeded bias as well as assumptions about expectations. If the interviewee happens to be Muslim but reports seeing a Marian apparition, of what use if their Muslim claim? This has happened many times - people seeing things outside their professed faith.
    – Vogon Poet
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 3:16
  • @VogonPoet It's usually good to collect whatever data you can whenever reasonably possible; the data can paint its own picture.
    – Nat
    Commented Sep 26, 2019 at 19:54

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